This guide sets out what information relating to the environment is available to the public under South Australian legislation. Many environmental and other Acts allow the public to access certain documents either on application or through a “public register”. In some circumstances, information may not be readily available in which case it may be necessary to use the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (SA).
Registers of information
The Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA) (s109) and the Environmental Protection Regulations 2009 (SA) (Reg. 16) require the keeping of a “public register” of information containing:
- details of incidents causing or threatening serious or material environmental harm that come to the notice of the EPA including any remedial action taken or proposed;
- details of any environment protection order, clean-up order or clean-up authorisation issued by the EPA and any consequent action taken including a report on compliance with the order issued;
- details of prosecutions (nature of the offence, name of proceedings, action number, name of court, outcome), copies of written warnings and other enforcement action;
- details of each application for an environmental authorisation (i.e. licenses, exemptions or works approval) and development authorisations, the outcome of these applications and (if granted) details of any conditions attaching to those authorisations;
- details of reports of environmental assessments carried out for purposes of voluntary site contamination and remediation, or carried out for any other purpose.
The Register can be inspected at the offices of the Environment Protection Authority, Level 8, 250 Victoria Square, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8204 2000). A small fee applies to the inspection of the Register and the taking of copies.
Public and environmental health
Each local council is required to submit a report every year to the South Australian Health Commission on their work under the Public and Environmental Health Act 1987 (s44). The report outlines the state of environmental and public health in the local council area and details of measures taken by the council to address any problems. The Health Commission is also responsible for the keeping of a register of licences and registrations granted under the Radiation Protection and Control Act 1982 (SA).
This register contains such information as where unsealed radioactive substances are handled and kept, who has a licence to mine or mill radioactive ores and who has a licence to use or handle radioactive substances. This information can be inspected at the South Australian Health Commission, City Centre, 11 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, 5000 (Ph: (08) 8226 6000).
The Development Regulations 2008 (SA) require local Councils and the Development Assessment Commission to keep a register of applications for consent, approval or assignment of building classifications under the Development Act 1993 (SA) (Reg. 98).
Where a development is of a type that requires neighbour or public notice (category 2, 2A or 3), certain additional information such as plans and specifications, must also be made available for public inspection (Reg 34).
Council offices are listed in the telephone directory and the Development Assessment Commission is located on the 5th Floor, Dame Roma Mitchell Building, 136 North Terrace, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8303 0771). Copies of Development Plans (including reviews and amendments), are available from the relevant local council or can be inspected at the Conservation Council, Level 1 157 Franklin Street, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8223 5155). Many are also available online at www.planning.sa.gov.au, under the tab ’Development Plans’.
The Heritage Places Act 1993 (SA) provides for the keeping of the “State Heritage Register” (ss13-15). The Register has an inventory attached to it containing information relating to State Heritage Areas, local heritage (as designated in Development Plans) and Commonwealth heritage sites.
The South Australian Heritage Register can be inspected at 1 Richmond Rd, Keswick, Adelaide. (Ph: (08) 8124 4960 or go to www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/index.html). A list of State heritage places can also be found at the relevant local councils or online at www.planning.sa.gov.au.
Aboriginal Heritage & Native Title
The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA) creates central and local archives relating to Aboriginal heritage, including a “Register of Aboriginal Sites and Objects” (s9). This information is confidential and can only be disclosed in certain circumstances such as where the traditional owners of the site or object have given their approval for disclosure. Aboriginal Affairs & Reconciliation can be contacted on (08) 8226 3184.
The Native Title (South Australia) Act 1994 established the “State Native Title Register” (s17). The register contains all decisions by South Australian courts, and authorities under the law of the Commonwealth, on questions about the existence of native title in South Australia or the nature of the rights conferred by native title.
Once it has been determined that native title does exist in the land, then the Register will contain a description of the persons who are recognised at common law as the holders of native title in the land and a description of the nature and extent of the rights and interests conferred by the native title. The register also includes details of all current claims to native title.
The Register can be inspected on the Level 10, Chesser House, 91 Grenfell Street, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8306 1230 or freecall 1800 640 501). Fees apply in relation to inspection and taking of copies.
The Mining Act 1971 (s15A) establishes a register of miners’ rights, precious stones prospecting permits, registered claims, mineral exploration licences and mining leases.
To inspect the Mining Register a request must be made in writing to the “Mineral Registration Branch of Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia” (PIRSA). Requests can be made by email: [email protected], post: PIRSA Mineral Tenements GPO Box 1671, Adelaide or fax: (08) 8463 3101. For assistance in making a request contact PIRSA Customer Service on (08) 8463 3103 or at the offices at Level 7, 101 Grenfell St, Adelaide. Fees apply with respect to searching the Register and the making of copies.
Native Vegetation clearance
The Native Vegetation Council keeps a register of applications for permission to clear native vegetation under the Native Vegetation Act 1991 (SA) (s28). The Register also contains a list of land subject to heritage agreements for the protection of native vegetation (s23B).
This information can be accessed by contacting the Native Vegetation Council (Ph: (08) 8303 9741) or email [email protected] It is also available online at www.environment.sa.gov.au/dwlbc/native/nvc/register.html (though only applications made after 25 August 2003 are available).
The Coast Protection Board prepares and issues bulletins, information sheets, maps and plans. (Coast Protection Act 1972 (SA) (s.14)). This information can be obtained from the Coast and Marine Conservation Branch DENR, Level 1, 1 Richmond Rd, Keswick (Ph: (08) 8124 4900). Information can also be found online at www.environment.sa.gov.au/coasts.
Fisheries & National Parks
The Fisheries Section of the PIRSA is required to keep a Register of commercial fishing licences. (Fisheries Management Act 2007 (SA) s116).
This Register can be inspected online at www.pir.sa.gov.au/fisheries/public_register or by calling PIRSA Fisheries Section (Ph: (08) 8204 1380). Copies of marine park management plans can also be obtained from the State Information Centre.
National Park and Wilderness Area management plans under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 can be obtained from the relevant park office, from the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources Ph: (08 8204 1910) or online www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/ management/plans.html. Park management plans can be purchased for a small fee. Information relating to marine parks established under the Marine Parks Act 2007 (SA) can be found at www.marineparkssa.ning.com or by calling 1800 006 120.
The following documents are available for public inspection at Council Offices and copies are available on request: Ordinary Council Agendas and Minutes, Standing Committee Agendas and Minutes, The Corporate Plan, The Budget Statement, The Annual Report, Council By-Laws, Annual Financial Accounts.
The following documents are available for “inspection only” at Council Offices: Development Plan Amendments previously on exhibition, Planning Applications by Consent, Planning Application Register, Register of Employees’ Salaries, Wages and Benefits, Assessment Book, Register of Public Streets and Roads, Register of Fees and Charges levied by the Council, Building Register, Dog Register, Register of Parking Controls.
The following law libraries allow public access to their resources, although borrowing is not permitted:
- Supreme Court Library, 1 Gouger Street, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8204 0488)
- Law Society Library, 124 Waymouth Street, Adelaide (Ph: (08) 8229 0222)
- Adelaide University Law Library, Ligertwood Building, North Terrace Campus (Ph: (08) 8303 5558)
- Flinders University Law Library, Sturt Road, Bedford Park (Ph: (08) 8201 5198)
Environment, Resources and Development Court
The Environment, Resources and Development Court must allow any member of the public, on application, to inspect certain documents. (Environment, Resources and Development Court Act 1993 (SA) (s.47 (1)). These include any process relating to proceedings and forming part of the Court’s records, a transcript of evidence taken by the Court in any proceedings and any documentary material admitted into evidence in any proceedings. Decisions or orders of the Court are available, however some other documents can only be inspected with the permission of the Court. (s.47 (2)).
Fees apply to inspect documents and to obtain copies. The Environment, Resources and Development Court is in the Sir Samuel Way Building, Victoria Square, Adelaide. (Ph: (08) 8204 0300)
General Access to Legislation and Cases
Legislation and other government information can be obtained from www.sa.gov.au.
- The Conservation Council Level 1, 157 Franklin Street Adelaide, Ph: (08) 8223 5155) also has a reference library that is open to the public, however no borrowing is permitted.
- South Australian legislation and case law is also available on the Internet at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/ index.html and http://www.legislation.sa.gov.au.
Fees and charges: Many of the fees and charges payable by persons wishing to inspect or obtain copies of government documents can be exorbitant. It is often worthwhile asking for a discount or for the charges to be waived, especially if you are on a low income or representing a non-profit community group.
The Environmental Defenders Office (SA) inc, (EDO) is a non-profit community legal centre offering free advice to individuals and groups on all matters of environmental law. The EDO operates an advisory on Thursday evenings between 6-8PM at: 408 King William St Adelaide SA 5000 Fax +61 (08) 8410 3855. Appointments are necessary and must be made by ringing 8410 3833 or freecall 1800 337 566. It is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Important legal details have been omitted to provide a brief overview of this law. Contact the EDO or your solicitor for more detailed legal advice about your specific problem. This guide was funded by a grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia.